How to Use Multi-Planar/Multi-Joint Exercises to Become a Better, Healthier Athlete

Most sports are not played in single plane of motion, so you should train in multiple planes.

Imagine that all sports are one dimensional and that athletes just run forward in a straight line with no lateral, backward or diagonal movements on the field, court or ice! Thankfully, that's not the case, but in the weight room, it's a typical approach to training.

Exercises like Bench Presses, Squats, Pull-Ups and Upright Rows, and especially most machine exercises (e.g., Leg Presses, Pull-Downs, Chest Presses and Shoulder Presses) are performed in one plane of motion. Though these exercises certainly build muscle, focusing primarily on single planar exercises during every workout can prevent you from gaining even more muscle, boosting your sports performance, and reducing injury risk on the field and in the weight room.

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The two full-body workouts below are comprised of multi-planar and multi-joint exercises, which are not only more sports-functional, but also beneficial for daily physical activities. They're ideal for athletes, because they train muscles and joints in various directions and at different angles—pushing, pulling, lunging and twisting—in multiple planes of movement, simulating how you move in your sport. In contrast, repetitive lifting in one plane of motion every workout makes you more prone to overtraining joints and muscles and causing chronic joint and muscle soreness.


  • Med Ball (70-80% RM)
  • Two dumbbells (70-80% RM)
  • Cable machine (optional)
  • Bench
  • Water Bottle
  • Timer (optional)


  • Start by performing an upper- and lower-body dynamic warm-up (e.g. Arm Circles and Side Lunges).
  • Finish with upper- and lower-body cooldown static stretches for greater flexibility and range of motion.
  • Hydrate before, during and after workouts.
  • Do workouts on non-consecutive days for adequate recovery.
  • Sets/Reps: 2x10 or 2x5 each side
  • Rest: 30 seconds between sets; 60 seconds between exercises.

Workout 1

Standing Pulldowns/Side Lunges

Use either a cable machine or a med ball. Hold the ball overhead and pull it down to your chest while simultaneously lunging laterally right. Return to start position. Perform on opposite side.

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Windmill Push-Ups

This push-up variation not only builds chest, shoulder and arm muscles, the alternating twisting windmill motion strengthens your core muscles. Assume a push-up position and slowly lower yourself. As you press up, lift your right hand off the floor, extend your arm up and rotate your upper body. Return to start position, do another Push-Up, lift your left hand off the floor and rotate your arm/upper body to the left.

Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows/Alternating Reverse Lunges

Assume an athletic stance, bend at the waist and pull the dumbbells to your waist while simultaneously lunging backward with your right leg. Return to start position and pull the dumbbells while lunging backward with your left leg. Continue Rows and Alternating Reverse Lunges for 10 reps (five per leg).

Med Ball Press-Outs/Diagonal Lunges

Hold the ball close to your chest. Explosively press the ball away from your chest while lunging diagonally right. Return to start position and continue pressing the ball out while performing diagonal Lunges to the right. Rest, hydrate, and repeat lunging diagonally left.

Workout 2



Hold a med ball with your arms extended at chest level and your right foot atop the bench. Simultaneously push down with your right foot and lift your left foot off the floor while rotating the med ball and your upper body to the right, then switch sides.

Side Jump Squats/Diagonal Press-Outs

Hold the med ball or dumbbell close to your chest. Assume a squat position. Do 10 right lateral Jump Squats while simultaneously explosively pressing the ball or dumbbell diagonally out to the right and back in toward your chest between jumps. Switch sides.

Upright Rows/Walking Forward Lunges

Hold both dumbbells at waist level. Lunge forward with your right foot and simultaneously pull the dumbbells to chest level. Lower the dumbbells back to your waist and lunge forward with your left foot while raising them to chest level.

Single-Leg Cross Rows/Overhead Presses

Hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your right foot off the floor and left knee slightly bent. Squat and simultaneously bring the dumbbell down across your body toward your left ankle. Pause. Pull the dumbbell up to your right shoulder and press it overhead. Do 10 reps. Switch hands. Holding the dumbbell in your left hand with your left foot off the floor and right knee slightly bent, lower the dumbbell across your body toward your right ankle. Pause. Pull the dumbbell back up to your left shoulder and press it overhead.

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